I've been slow to climb on the pretzel bread bandwagon. I'm not sure why. Sometimes I confuse myself. But anyway, now that I've made these awesome pretzel bread bowls, I don't think I can go back to my old life where pretzel bread wasn't part of my world. I mean, I could, I just don't want to.
I was concerned that these might be dense throughout, like a soft pretzel is, but they're dense only through the crust, and then they're light and fluffy, the way a bread bowl should be. They are truly fantastic. They hold up nicely, too, against the tide of minestrone or cream of broccoli or creamy tomato soup -- any kind of soup you can throw at it, really.
And my favorite thing about them is that they're really quite simple to make. I recognize that my idea of simple is maybe not the same as everybody else's, but I made these while battling the worst cold I've ever had and I didn't regret it. The dough is easy to work with, and the final result is just stunning. Made me feel like a super star, and who doesn't like that feeling?
Simple Pretzel Bread Bowls
adapted from A Beautiful Mess and Food Network Magazine
3 Tbsp. butter
2 c. hot water
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
6 c. bread flour (all purpose would probably be fine, but bread flour is better)
2 tsp. kosher salt
8-10 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
egg wash (1 egg beaten together with 1 tsp. water)
coarse sea salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter, hot water and brown sugar. Stir to combine and melt the butter. Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the mixture and let sit for 5-6 minutes, at which point it should be nice and foamy.
With the dough hook attachment, stir in three cups of the flour and the kosher salt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining three cups of flour. Mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball (should take a few minutes). Continue kneading until dough becomes smooth and elastic (about 4-5 minutes more). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for one hour, or until doubled.
After an hour, punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into eight pieces and roll into small balls. Place on a greased baking sheet, cover and allow to rest for 20 minutes. If you don't want to make all 8 at once, you can freeze half of them for later use.
In a large pot, heat 8-10 cups of water until just boiling. Stir in 1/3 cup baking soda. Keep at a low boil and place each dough ball into the water. Cook for 45 seconds, flipping in the middle. Remove and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once you've boiled each ball, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cut a small X on the top of each dough ball with a sharp paring knife.
Bake at 400°F for 15-18 minutes, until very brown on the outside. Allow to cool.
When ready to serve, use a sharp knife to cut a round out of the bread, making a lid in the process (kind of like when you carve a pumpkin). Scoop out as much of the inner bread as desired to make space for soup.